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17 more Nebraska counties named disaster areas

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More than a dozen Nebraska counties have been designated as disaster areas because of drought.

Over the past week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued disaster declarations for 17 counties, mostly in northeast and western Nebraska, the two areas where drought conditions have been the worst.

The counties designated as primary natural disaster areas were: Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Deuel, Dundy, Garden, Hitchcock, Keith, Kimball, Madison, Morrill, Pierce, Perkins, Platte, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan and Wayne.

They join Colfax, Cuming, Dawes, Dodge, Stanton and Thurston counties, which were declared as disaster areas last month.

Counties with a disaster declaration are eligible for emergency loans for losses caused by drought, which can be used for purposes such as paying to replace equipment or livestock or refinancing debts.

That eligibility also extends to more than two dozen counties that are contiguous to the counties with disaster declarations.

Nebraska is seeing its worst drought conditions since 2013. As of Thursday, nearly 86% of the state was in some level of drought, with 12% — all in the Panhandle — in extreme drought.

Both severe and extreme drought can lead to lowered crop yields, scarce hay supplies and serious declines in groundwater levels.

The one thing the dry weather has helped with is harvest. As of Monday, the soybean harvest was essentially done in the state, while about 86% of corn had been harvested. That's well ahead of the five-year average.

Photos: Harvest time in Nebraska

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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